Duty to Die. What the Republicans are Pushing in AHCA

The Republicans are racing to enact AHCA under cloud of secrecy and distraction provided by the Russia investigation.  They are intent on their mission and won’t be denied.  But why the hurry, why the secrecy, why the subterfuge and why the cruelty?

The AHCA and other upcoming bills tell us the agenda of the Republican party.  If we analyze what they are doing, we can connect the dots as to why, and where they want to take our country.  I can’t comment on the Senate version of AHCA because nobody has seen it.  But I can comment on the House version.  We can be confident that, while the Senate version may have some differences, the effect will be similar.  The House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans, and those in charge share an agenda.  Thus, while there may be differences around the edges, the substance will be intact.

We can derive from the CBO score that the House AHCA benefits those of privilege and the healthy young, while gravely harming the aged, the disabled, and the poor.  The question we ask is why?  Why are they protecting those in least need of protection and savaging those in greatest need of protection?  What is the end game?

As I wrote in a post earlier (read it here), we are racing toward corporate feudalism. Based on their priorities and allegiances, it is obvious that this is the goal of the Republican establishment.  They have a protected class, and the purpose of the rest of society is to serve, pamper and enrich the protected ones.  The protected class consists of corporations and the wealthy.  To complete corporate feudalism, they must have control of all factors of production, that is, the means of creating wealth.  A read of the House version of AHCA and the CBO scoring of it shows that they are doing all they can to accomplish that.  It also reveals a sinister undercurrent in the Republican Establishment thinking:  Those who are not able to serve, pamper and enrich the pampered ones have a duty to die.  I will say it again, those who do not fit the purpose of the elite have a duty to die.  But, as I will explain later, they must die in the most horrible ways, and only after any wealth they may have been able to generate is returned to the corporations.

Let’s take a look at who is primarily targeted by the House AHCA.  It is the elderly, the disabled, those with preexisting conditions, the poor and the sick.  Why are they the targets?  These are the people who contribute nothing or little to the corporate bottom line.  These are the people Republicans have been calling the “takers.”  Not the corporations making billions in profits while collecting millions in tax dollars.  The “takers” are the people who continue to live while not enriching the protected.  Based on the content of bills being pushed by the Republicans, it is clear Republicans believe these “takers” have a duty to die and stop using resources.

Those who are not targeted, the young and healthy at their peak of production, are covered by AHCA  as long as they stay healthy.  They bring in far more profit than they cost to cover.  The protected class needs them to do the work.  The young and healthy are the most valuable factors of production, and they are worth the investment to maintain.  But the bill has some huge gotchas in it for them.  If they have preexisting conditions, that will be out of pocket, and at a higher rate than the actual cost to treat those conditions.  (For example, there is no way it costs $2000 a month to make and distribute insulin to a diabetic.  But that is what they are going charge the diabetic. Same with a number of other drugs.  The pharmaceuticals are having a heyday with life saving drugs.) The portion of the bill that allows lifetime caps on coverage for the employed is a way to exact maximum profit from workers and discard them when they are no longer profitable.  It also discourages workers from accessing their coverage in order to have it available in time of great need.

Women and children are targeted in this bill.  We should note that with this bill plus their other policies and practices, women are to be nothing beyond toys and incubators.  There is to be no sex education (hence Betsy), no birth control (hence targeting planned parenthood and other Republican sponsored bills both in congress and in the states), no prenatal coverage (now, isn’t that crazy if you want a healthy baby?), no maternity coverage, no neonatal protection, and once the child is born, no public assistance (they are working on dumping WIC and severely restrict even food stamps), no assistance with child care.  But if you don’t manage to raise the child the way they think the child should be raised, you can be fined, charged, arrested and even imprisoned.  This only makes sense in a corporate feudal framework where women and children are little more than livestock.  We should notice from their behavior that in their minds, the place of women in their society is the serving, pampering and enriching via sex.  Going beyond reproduction, Republicans are pushing policies that would have children not from the protected class educated in institutions that push a religion that supports their caste system and restricts knowledge to those things that will make those children grow up to be little more than capital (financial assets, like machinery).  Once their value is fully depreciated, they revert to being “takers.”

The “takers” have a duty to die.  But if you look at the rest of the administration, you find that it is more than a duty to die.  AG Sessions has spoken out against both medical marijuana and death with dignity laws. Why would he oppose those?  The reason is evil in the rawest sense.  Marijuana has been shown to relieve pain and other symptoms of disease and is relatively inexpensive.  It has been shown to offer comfort for cancer patients, especially in their final stages.  It has been shown to offer some help for dementia patients.  Why not encourage its use?  And why, when a person has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, not allow them to pass on peacefully and painlessly at a time of their choosing?  I can only come up with one rationale for these things.  People using medical marijuana are not using expensive pharmaceuticals.  People who choose to die peacefully and at the time of their choosing wind up not using the pain killers or living in nursing homes.  In other words, Republicans want to ensure that as you are suffering and dying, you will first cough up any assets you have managed to acquire in your life to corporate interests before you go.  You have a duty to die, and to die broke and in agony.  To serve the protected class.

I am not sure what can be done about our trajectory.  Now that the GOP is in control of two branches of government and is about to cement their control in the judiciary (not only in the Supreme Court, but in all the Federal courts as well), a course correction may not be possible.  As of this summer, we may be officially a corporate feudal state.

 

 

 

Country Before Party Makes No Sense

I have seen so many pundits on both the right and the left calling on the Republican congresspersons to put country before party.  In fact, there is a fine article about it here.  I can understand those on the left saying that.  But those on the right should know, the phrase country before party makes no sense to Republicans.  To them, country and party are one.  What is good for the country is good for the party, and what is good for the party is good for the country.

We talk about the Republicans who put country ahead of party during the Watergate hearings.  But that was a different generation.  After World War II, regardless of the friction between Republicans and Democrats, we were fairly well united as a country.  During the war, Republicans and Democrats fought side by side, and the German bullets and Japanese kamikaze pilots did not ask for party affiliation before killing or maiming.  The person who saved your butt didn’t either.  Many of those congresspersons had served in some capacity in WWII.

There are no more WWII veterans in Congress.  There is little understanding of what it means to fight for the survival of your country.  And much has changed.  I don’t think it began with Ronald Reagan.  I am not sure it began with Richard Nixon.  It might have begun with Barry Goldwater.  (Certainly the purging of the moderates began then, as Prescott Bush pushed out Nelson Rockefeller in favor of Goldwater using the Rockefeller divorce as an excuse.)  But I know as I was becoming an activist in the Republican Party during and after college, I was hearing an odd refrain.  It was odd to me, because my parents, Republican activists, would have never have said it or even thought it.  But here it was, “The Republican Party represents the true America.”  They were in the business of delegitimizing any ideas but those offered by the party.

I have told before of a conversation I had with the county chairwoman in the 90s.  She said, “You always vote for the person with an R beside his name.  Always.”  I said to her, “but what if that person is a Hitler type person?”  Not that I thought that could happen in America, but it would, in my mind, justify voting other than R.  She said, “The party knows what it is doing.  They would weed out any Hitler.  You have to trust the wisdom of the party.”  (I should state, this conversation occurred shortly after I expressed concern that we were more concerned with fundraising from corporate donors than ordinary people, but I digress.)

After that conversation, I began noticing things in campaign speeches and ordinary conversation.  Things that marginalized non-republican ideas.  Things like, “They don’t really belong here.”  Or, “They just don’t understand these things.” (Implying an intellectual or a moral superiority.)  I started hearing about “The Real America,” which we heard ad infinitum a decade later from the beloved half term governor from Alaska.  The Real America.  Rural America, Southern States America, Factory America, Gun slinging America.  And, interesting enough, Corporate America, who are as removed from the other Real Americas as I can imagine being.  Real America was not the city people, even though they now outnumbered the Real America.  Nor our vibrant minority communities who were rapidly becoming the economic engines.

I also found it jarring that the policies put forth for Real America didn’t benefit Rural America, Southern States America, or Factory America.  Their policies were real hard on them.  Sure, they had farm bills, but those only seemed to benefit corporate farms, not the hard working family farmer.  And how could gutting the unions benefit Factory America?  It couldn’t.  It was merely a lip service, a ploy, an appeal to the emotions without passing through the brain.  We all know what they were offering Southern States America.  The only Real America that their policies helped were Corporate America.

But here it was.  The Republican Party was equated to The Real America.  It was the country.  Everybody else is either an interloper or an agitator or not very bright.  Party and country were one.  You can’t ask people to put party before country if, in their minds, they are the same thing.  The Republican Congresspersons will think they are putting country first, because to them, the party is the country.  We are so screwed!

Citizens United and its Impact on Constituency

When I was growing up, My father was active in politics.  You would never see him on the stump, and he never ran for office.  He was a critical member of various politicians’ teams, mostly republican.  One thing he was particularly good at was fundraising.  I remember him telling me, “The small donation from a family is important.  If the person who handles the family money will give you $5.00, you have to understand what that means.  $5.00 is a roast and all the fixings (this was the 60’s, after all).  That is at least one family meal.  They have given you a meal off of their table.  If they will give you that, they will give you their vote.  These donations are a sign that they are with you.”

Was the small donation also a way to gain influence over the candidate?  Probably, but it didn’t matter.  The donation was small, and their were a lot of them in relation to the district.  Lots of donations of similar amounts meant that the influence was dispersed across a whole lot of families.  The politicians had to listen to a lot of people with a lot of different ideas if they wanted to fund their campaigns and win their elections.  While they hated having to beg for donations, the process led to democratic (small d) representation.  Those families, and their neighbors, were the constituency, and the politicians never forgot it.

When I returned to Colorado in 1989, I joined up with the Douglas County Republicans, because I lived in Douglas County.  We were immediately involved in the local elections and midterms.  I was looking forward to putting into practice the things I had learned from my father.  However, something had happened to Colorado politics while I was away.  I was told, “We don’t do fundraising that way any more.  It is too hard, too time consuming, and undignified.  We have big dollar sponsors now.  All we have to do is select candidates that our sponsors can support.”  And so it was.  At the time, the big donors were people like Marvin Davis and Philip Anschutz and  corporations like major banks and large developers.  It soon included the Koch brothers and other donors at the national level.  While the smaller donations were never turned down, they were no longer the focus of fundraising.  With the change in fundraising came a change in the constituency.  The politicians no longer had to accommodate the families who made up the small donor class.  They had to accommodate the big donors.  And the influence was no longer dispersed, it was concentrated.  The constituency was now the wealthy individuals and corporations, who seemed to have the same policy focuses.

Then came the The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Act.  But first, a bit of history on campaign financing.

The first federal laws concerning campaign finance were passed in 1867 to prohibit Navy yard workers from being solicited for campaign funds.  I don’t know why this law was passed.  Over the years, other laws were passed to regulate campaign financing.  Essentially, these laws were meant to limit contributions to ensure that wealthy individuals and special interest groups did not have a disproportionate influence on Federal elections, prohibit certain sources of funds for Federal campaign purposes (i.e., the Tillman Act prohibited corporations and national banks from contributing money to national campaigns), control campaign spending (laws passed in 1910 covering U.S. House of Representative races, and 1911 to add the Senate, both laws limited the amounts that could be spent on a candidate’s election), and require public disclosure of campaign finances to deter abuse and to educate the electorate (essentially the Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1925).  The public disclosure was an important element of the regulations passed.

However, these laws were approved without including a way to enforce them.  Thus, the campaign finance provisions of all of these laws were pretty much ignored. In 1971, Congress passed a more rigorous set of disclosure provisions under the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act as the primary law regulating political campaign spending and fundraising. It focused on increased disclosure of contributions for federal campaigns.  

After Watergate, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, which put new limits on contributions to campaigns.  Unfortunately, within four years, the FEC had decided that donors could donate unlimited money to political parties, but not the candidates themselves, as long as the party used that money for “party building activities” such as voter registration drives, but not to directly support candidates.  Political parties still used this money to support their candidates.  This money donated to parties became known as soft money.  In 1992, President George HW Bush vetoed a bill restricting use of soft money.

Because of a series of scandals (including Enron) brought the issue of campaign finance to the fore of public consciousness in 2001, and the McCain-Feingold bill was passed.  The important provisions of this act included a prohibition of national political party committees from raising or spending any funds not subject to the federal limits previously set, and limited the use of issue advocacy adds.  It also prohibited any issue advocacy ad from being paid for by a corporation, including non-profit issue organizations, or union general treasury funds.  It also included a ban on foreign corporations or foreign nationals being involved in decisions regarding political spending.  Mitch McConnell was a major opponent of this act.

To comply with McCain-Feingold, many “527s” have been registered.  527s get their name from section 527 of the IRS code. 527s are mostly funded by wealthy individuals, labor unions, and businesses.  While 527s existed before McCain-Feingold, they became more popular after it was passed.

McCain-Feingold had in it a section known as the “millionaire’s amendment,” which tried to equalize campaigns by increasing the legal limit on contributions to candidate when his opponent used personal wealth to overwhelm the spending of the candidate.  As McCain said, “Money does buy access in Washington, and access increases influence that often results in benefiting the few at the expense of the many.”  In other words, the millionaire amendment was specifically designed to offset the ability of the very wealthy to buy elections.  This is the provision that the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional in the case known as Citizens United in 2009.  Specifically, Citizens United struck down campaign financing laws related to corporations and unions.  The minority argued that the court erred in allowing unlimited corporate spending, arguing that corporate spending posed a particular threat to democratic self-government. However, it did also make it easier to hide the source of funds.  According to President Barack Obama, “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.” He also said the decision was, “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

In fact, the Supreme Court decision in 2009 did make it easier to hide where soft money was coming from.  The elections of 2012 and 2016 are evidence of this fact.  Now our elections are largely financed by the 1%.  We know that Robert Mercer was a major contributor to the Trump campaign.  We know that Sheldon Adelson largely funded the failed Newt Gingrich campaign and was sought by all the Republican candidates in 2016.  We also know that the Koch brothers have invested heavily in elections throughout the country from school boards to state assemblies and legislatures to U.S. Congress and President.  So financing campaigns has been moved from the family donations to the company donations to corporate and special interest donations to the 1%.  So the influence, and thus, the constituency, has shifted accordingly.

However, these are the things we know about soft money.  The difficulty in finding out the sources of funds in the soft money world opens up a whole new problem.  Because of the lack of transparency, there is every possibility that a significant portion of that soft money is in fact laundered money from foreign sources.  We do know that there are questions about several individuals involved in the Trump campaign as to whether they have been laundering money.  There are transactions, for example, that Manafort has been involved in that have all the earmarks of money laundering.  It is not a far stretch to ask whether the Trump campaign was an experiment in a new way to launder money.  If the Trump campaign was benefiting from laundered money, was he the only one?  If politicians were accepting money from foreign sources, then who do they represent?  Does the influence belong now to foreign entities?  Are these foreign entities now the true constituency of our politicians?  This is a really scary thought.  Imagine if the real constituent to whom our congress and President are responsible to is Vladimer Putin.   Perhaps the time has come to ask our congresspersons, who are your real constituents?

 

 

A Letter From My Husband to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman

This is a letter My husband wrote to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.  I think it is worthy of reading.

I trust you will read this letter in its entirety, rather than picking and choosing issues to respond to as has been the case in the past.

I am a retiree and depend on my earned benefits (Medicare, Social Security and a small pension).

I am a Viet Nam era veteran from the early 1970s where I was a part of the IC community. During that period, I developed a deep dislike for Russia and its corrupt behavior.

Politically I was active within the GOP from the 1970s to 2005. In the late 1990s the GOP left me and became a party I did not recognize. The party also left the American people. It no longer cared for the citizens and did everything to abandon the nation’s infrastructure and the health and welfare of people that matured under the Eisenhower administration. Yes, the Democrats were the opposition, but there was usually an attempt to find solutions. Today Democratic values are more closely aligned to the values of the GOP in the 50s and 60s and for that matter the 70s and 80s. Voter opinion was valued by the party. Huge donors didn’t rule the roost. There were no Koch brothers or DeVos family influences. People mattered back then. Today, who in the GOP cares about the people?

The issues I have outlined below are important to me because I still believe American citizens matter. Everyone who lives in this country matters (other than those who choose to destroy our Democracy). I hope you consider each, realizing this nation must be one of compassion and that today’s GOP cannot continue to shove their beliefs down everyone’s throats.

Health Care

The Trump/Ryan Care legislation was unacceptable. It was cruel to those who need it most, many who have no choice. For example, my daughter-in-law has type 1 diabetes. Her employer does not provide insurance to ‘part time’ employees. By the way, she is not part time by choice, but rather because her employer (major American corporation), like so many, is avoiding the cost of benefits. Prescriptions alone could cost her $2,000 per month without insurance. A high-risk pool such as proposed by the GOP would mean no health insurance coverage and eventual death. Is what we really want? For the rich, I am sure that is the case.

The menu of EHCB under ACA has been a godsend. Yes, premiums and deductibles are high, but much better than the days before ACA. Why do I like the ACA? The answer is simple, ‘affordable health insurance for a person over 50 years old’. I was in the Defense industry for almost 40 years. My benefits were great, however with budget cuts, highly compensated employees like me and my wife were forced into early retirement. Retirement medical benefits were more costly than what I could find on the commercial market and the ACA. I was headed toward bankruptcy. Both Trump/Ryan didn’t give a damn about the over 50 population and even with increased tax credits the deal was rotten. How dare they use the legislation to reduce the taxes of the wealthy on the backs of people like us? This should be legislation for comprehensive health care for all at an affordable price no matter the individual’s age. Medicaid is an essential element of health care although it does not affect us. The GOP does not seem to care for the working people living in this country.

Earned Benefits

I am a firm believer in protecting the benefits we paid for, specifically, Medicare and Social Security. These are earned benefits. Now that I collect these benefits, I understand more than ever their importance and the need to protect them for all who have made contributions. It is important to keep these programs viable, but GOP plans are not well thought out. Why is the Social Security Cap not adjusted like it used to be? It seems like increasing a contribution to retirement a little each year is not a sin other than some Think Tank giving a Congressman a lower score. Congressmen work for us, not a Think Tank. Medicare must be kept intact and prescription prices kept affordable. Rather than adjusting retirement age (not a reality) why not consider an increase in taxes in line with inflation? Privatizing is not an option either. The Government is the best manager of my money. I’ve had so many investment firms rip me off over the years that I no longer trust them. That is the private sector.

Immigration/Refugees

The fabric of this nation is our immigrants, no matter how they arrived. It is special to see friends, co-workers, worshipers, store clerks, airport workers, public servants, etc. from so many different countries. Many came to this great country to flee oppression or poverty. Why on earth would we change something so special? Today’s travel bans and deportations are just two things that shock me. Why do we oppress people in or attempting to enter our country? I love Colorado because of its diversity. In a normal day I interact with people from at least a dozen countries. They are not here to destroy us. Why are DREAMers not citizens? What law did they break? They had no say in how they arrived and yet they are friends and peers. What about those escaping war-torn countries and areas of famine? For those of us of Christian faith, God would expect us to care for those in need. I cannot understand why Congress and the Administration are filled with such hate.

Religious Freedom

I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. This line is being blurred by this administration and is being manifested by expressions of hatred towards believers of other faiths. I am stunned that Congress is seemingly silent on acts of violence and vandalism. Congress is guilty of not condemning this administration of promoting expressions of hate.

The Wall

This is the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars. No one knows the exact price and Congress is making no attempts to find out the true cost. Congressmen will be held accountable for this failure. This wall reminds me of the Berlin wall. Is Mexico our enemy? No. They are our friends and trading partners. Is this wall going to hinder migration of wildlife? I am sure it will. The hatred of this administration seems to trump all considerations of the impact of the wall. Bottom line this Congress is lazy. It does not want to do the hard work required to find solutions.

 Travel Ban

This is another area where Congress is not pushing back. The travel ban is a Muslim ban. More importantly it has no impacts on the investments of the president because it excludes nations where he has properties. It harms our businesses and tourism. People will not feel welcome to visit our nation and other nations will likely not welcome us. It is making this a more dangerous world. The Colorado GOP delegation seems to embrace this expression of hatred. As written, this ban has nothing to do with the safety of this country.

 Environment/Climate Change

Where do I begin? I have yet to meet anyone in Colorado that does not support green energy, does not want clean air and water, and that denies climate change. The actions of many in Congress and the current administration are advocating the destruction of all the progress we have made over the last several decades. Cost of regulations is not an acceptable excuse. The benefits have far outweighed the ‘costs’. People are healthier now. The world is better off.

Education

This administration is failing the country in a major way. Ms. DeVos should never have been confirmed. First, this was a case for pay to play. Too many Congressmen accepted donations from a Michigan resident who in turn felt obligated to support her nomination. Quite frankly, I believe this was a criminal act. Second, she advocates on the part of religious education. This dilutes the effect of our public education system. Our tax dollars must not go to religious education under any circumstance. My tax dollars must not go to supporting a school whose beliefs I do not support or agree with. Religion must be kept out of our public schools (and I am a Christian).

Voting Rights

Voting rights are being attacked in so many ways. Voter ID laws are making it impossible for the infirmed, minorities and seniors to cast their votes. A solution must be found so that all citizens can easily vote. Voting obstruction must end. Colorado may not be perfect, but does get higher grades than many states and should be held up as a good example for voting in national elections. I resent the criticism coming from the current administration on Colorado voting laws and I encourage our delegation in Washington to demand that it stop.

Infrastructure

This is an area where the GOP has dropped the ball. Where are the investments in the power grid, highways, water lines, gas lines, rail, mass transit, internet access, etc.? Congress is zeroing these investments out and refusing to increase gas taxes. Bridges are falling apart. Pot holes are everywhere. Tolls are being charged for highways that were constructed using our tax dollars. Are we giving infrastructure public assets to the well connected to profit from our contributions? This is corruption. It is a failure on the part of Congress. This took hold in the 1980s and now we as a country are facing a case of deferred maintenance which will cost ten times more to fix. Will it take a major disaster to wake Congress?

Supreme Court

This is a losing argument with you. Suffice it to say, voters will remember the Garland nomination. Why you were a part of this obstruction is beyond me. Neil Gorsuch, in my opinion, puts more value in businesses than the people of this country. There was no indication in the hearing that he would protect the lives of people in this country. Protecting big donors and big businesses seemed far more important. Is Congress throwing the poor and middle class under the bus? It appears that is the case.

Behavior of Current Administration

Our president has been in office roughly 75 days as I write this. It has seemed like 10 years of hell. Congress could become heroes if they were willing to put a stop to the chaos. Most of the EOs are not well thought out. Congress could correct the EOs, replace them, or pass legislation overriding them. We clearly have a president that has no clue on governing.

 Trump/Russia Investigations

As a veteran, I am very sensitive to anyone’s relationship to Russia. I don’t trust them and I believe they are out to destroy our great country. The Senate seems to be doing the right thing, albeit a little slow for my taste. Whatever the case may be, Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and hold people accountable, even at the highest levels of government. Tampering with our elections and any subsequent cover-up is wrong. Personally, I could probably name at least a dozen who I believe are guilty of something. It could mean a new President and it might be down the line of succession. I know I am not only person that is worried. Senate leadership is going to be very important.

Congressmen Work for Constituents

This can be the toughest thing for a Congressman, but it is the most important. Colorado elected you, not donors, not Think Tanks. You must listen to your constituents. I will hazard a guess, as much as you may not like it, most of us in Colorado embrace the ACA. Your donors may not like that, but in 2020 the voters will provide you with an assessment on how well you listened to them. In person town halls are important. Voters need to release their emotions in person and you must listen. This is especially true today, when we have an Administration that is determined to tick everyone off. Unfortunately, you will receive most of the voters’ wrath even if you were not a part of the president’s actions. I don’t believe for a minute that the Colorado protesters are outsiders. They are my friends and neighbors from here in Colorado. We want our Congressmen to hear us. I believe you can. Do you have the will?

Sincerely

If You Remain a Republican, You Own It

Continuing my hiatus on writing about corporate feudalism (research is hard), I write this to prepare you for what the Republican Party will do when the members are returning from their break.  Those congresspersons who received heavy pushback from their constituents will be given permission to decry what is happening in the Trump administration, and to vote against bills when their votes aren’t needed to pass the Republican agenda.  We must not allow them to get away with this.  Trump is now the Republican standard bearer.  If these congresspersons truly disapprove of the Republican agenda, they must repudiate being a republican.  Otherwise, they own it.

As I have said before, I used to be an active Republican.  I came by it honestly.  My parents were active Republicans.  I was in the mold of the Rockefeller Republicans.  We were pro choice, pro women rights, pro civil rights, but we were Republicans. I served as treasurer of Republican Women in three states and worked on numerous campaigns.  As the party became more anti choice, I was looked at funny, but they claimed they were a big tent, so I stayed.  As the party became more anti women, it got more uncomfortable, but I hoped to move the party more to center, so I stayed.  As the party got more evangelical christian, I was uneasy on behalf of my Jewish friends, but I stayed.

These views I held were not looked on kindly, however, and I found myself being edged out.  We had arguments and long discussions.  My own experiences were beginning to create conflicts with my party affiliation as well.  I became a speaker for Planned Parenthood, and found myself talking with battered women.  I volunteered for a program that helped K-6 homeless children.  I learned about domestic violence, and I learned about what it was to be poor.  I learned how people wound up homeless.  I learned what the lives of homeless children were like.  I found this knew knowledge contrasted with the slogans I had heard from the party.  I tried to speak to my state legislators about the issue, and found no compassion or interest in helping.

At the time, I considered myself a strong Christian.  But the more I read my Bible, the less I could reconcile the positions of the party with what I was reading.  I read that taking care of the homeless was our responsibility.  I read that feeding the hungry was our responsibility.  I read that our job was to heal the sick.  Since I had no talent in healing, it was my job to make sure the sick could access those with that talent.  I pointed out these things to my Republican associates, but they always had an “answer.”  It was interesting, the answer always began with “Yeah, but ….”  I found that to be a Republican was to live by the Yeahbut.

Then Tancredo and Musgrave started saying horrible things about gays, and wanting to essentially persecute them.  I had good friends who were gay.  I knew these things were false.  These things were horrid lies.  There was no yeahbut that would work.  I spoke up against these lies and implored my fellow Republicans to stop.  One of my associates said to me, “I know you have been a Republican all your life.  But if you are going to be a Republican now, this is our platform and you have to endorse it. Our standard bearers endorse it and you have to support them.”  She was right.  If I retained the title Republican, that meant I endorsed what they stand for, and I had to own it.  It defined me.  I could not endorse it.  I refused to own it.  It would not define me.  I changed parties.

It was amazing how much easier it became once I left that party.  I no longer had to twist myself into an intellectual pretzel.  I no longer had to live on a diet of yeahbuts.  I could look myself in the mirror.

Today, the party stands for a number of things I could never endorse.  Their standard bearer is Donald Trump, and the rest of the establishment support him.  If one is to be a Republican today, one is endorsing and supporting Trump and all he and the party stand for.  Not just in the platform, but in their words and deeds since January 20.  They endorse it.  They own it.  Because it reflects their value system, it defines them.

So what is it that they endorse?  What do they own?  What defines them?

  1. The Republicans call themselves the party of patriotism.   Yet there is the distinct smell of Russian interference in our elections, where our President might be compromised, and our nation is at risk of becoming a Russian puppet government.  The Republican congress killed a letter of inquiry into that connection.  As a Republican, you don’t want to ensure that our election was fair, honest and open as long as your party wound up with maximum power. Foreign interference, from an adversary no less, is acceptable.  Now Trump  accuses, with no attribution, the former President of the U.S. of spying on him during the election.   Trump is the Republican standard bearer.  This is the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  2. Republicans call themselves a Christian party.  Jesus said to heal the sick.  Republicans claim to support access to health care for all, but oppose coverage.  Access means it is there, but not necessarily affordable.  In many cases, a person has to choose between life saving medications (i.e. insulin) and eating.  They may be allowed to get the medications, but they can’t afford them.  In other words, choose the way you will die, just get on with it.  This is not affordable health care, and it will kick some 30 million people off of any coverage.  It will also make health care incredibly hard to afford for many millions more.  Seniors will be especially hard hit.  People will get sick, and people will die.  However, it will mean inflated profits for health insurance companies, allowing them some of the highest profit margins on the planet.    The new Republican health care plan not only kicks 20 million people off insurance roles currently covered by ACA, it also allows companies to stop providing health care to their employees.  This amounts to around 30 million FAMILIES losing their health care.  At an average of 2 children per family, this means 120 million more without health care.  This is the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  3. The Republicans call themselves to be the party of open doors.  Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from our country.  He wants to deport millions of undocumented people, many of whom came here as children.  He is deporting an Afghanistan veteran who served two tours of duty.  Imagine a U.S. military trained soldier in another country and mad at the U.S.  He says this is a Christian nation.  He isn’t particularly happy with the words of Jesus, “For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in … Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”   He is prepared to rip families apart, remove people from their jobs, destroy communities to fulfill his wish.  His travel ban had people stuck in airports for days with no direct access to their families or legal help.  He is willing to leave refugees suffering as they flee oppression.  He is willing to remove people who grew up in this country to places they have never seen (it is also likely they are actually deporting U.S. citizens under the pretense that they look undocumented).  The only crime committed by Dreamers is that they stayed with their parents who were seeking a better life for their children.  He has enabled the harassment of Muslims and the vandalism of mosques.  He has enabled the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and terrorizing of Jewish centers.  He has enabled the bullying of Latino U.S. citizens.    This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  4. Republicans call themselves the family values party.  This is the party that wants to obliterate Planned Parenthood and all the health care services it offers to low income men and women (no, not just women).  It is the party that wants an employer to have a say in whether a woman takes birth control.  It is the party that demands that every egg be fertilized, but would deny pre natal coverage, coverage for a hospital birth, post natal coverage, assistance in paying for feeding or caring for the child, and should the mother not live up to their standards of raising the child, would jail the mother.  This is the party trying to redefine rape to its narrowest possible definition, letting rapists off the hook so as not to “ruin the lives of fine young men.”  This is the party whose standard bearer boasts about groping women, walking into dressing rooms of naked adolescent women, insulting women’s appearance, has been accused of physical abuse, and has walked through 3 marriages, two ending because of his infidelity.  Rape, groping, domestic violence, insults and demeaning of women is not only ok, it is encouraged.  This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  5. There are many other contradictions between how the Republican Party labels itself and the policies they support.  But there are also many other positions they take that are harmful to Americans.  Betsy DeVos’s education office is mandating that states accept vouchers and relax accountability in the quality of the education provided.  While this would divert funds from public schools to private, it will not make them more accessible to the people.  Rather, it will raise the rates charged by private providers (demand/supply) while not ensuring that the students are receiving the education they are paying for.  At the same time, it will divert funds away from public schools, eroding the quality of education they are able to provide.  Special needs students will be especially hard hit, as the private institutions will not be required to accommodate them, but the public schools will not be able to afford quality services.  On a different subject, both members of Congress and the president have voiced support to violating or ignoring provisions of our treaties.  There are too many treaties to name here (you can find lists of those treaties here and here.)  These include both international treaties and treaties within our borders with Native American ties.  The international treaties at risk include trade agreements, agreements for mutual support, treaties protecting the environment, and (can you believe it?) the Geneva convention.  The number of treaties threatened with Native American tribes is in the hundreds,  and all are RIGHT NOW being violated by U.S. corporations and the U.S. government.  In addition, members of congress and the President have indicated a predilection to defaulting on U.S. debt.  A default on this debt not only affects foreign investors, but every person who holds a U. S. savings bond.  The violation of treaties and default on U.S. debt reduces the word and honor of the United States to zero.  The Republican members of Congress and their standard bearer support these actions.   This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.

All this and more is what it now means to be a Republican.  You cannot bring the party back.  You cannot urge its members away from it.  It is the substance of who they are and what they believe.  This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.  And when the next elections come up, we will remind the voters of that.

 

 

Why Trump Keeps Going on Vacation: White House Ghosts!

Taking a small vacation from my series on corporate feudalism, I decided to report on an interesting rumor I have heard lately. For background, I used to be a very active Republican, as I have documented before. I did see the light (long story), and have repudiated that association. When I changed parties, I lost contact with those I knew who were Republican activists. But the other day, I ran in to one at the store, and she had something interesting to tell me. First, she told me how appalled she is at the Trump administration and the horrible things he is doing to our country. That wasn’t all that interesting. But then, she said, “and you won’t believe why he is spending so much taxpayer money on all these vacations.” “Oh?” I said. “Really,” she continued, “You won’t believe it. He is afraid of the White House Ghosts.”

“Afraid of the White House Ghosts?” “Yes! Apparently he thinks they visited him in his first night there, and now he hates to even walk into the place. At night, he is so terrified, he wanders around in his pajamas because he is afraid to go to sleep.”

I remember talk of the White House Ghosts. When I was working on campaigns, I heard whispering that the reason they let the story of Nancy Reagan’s astrologer get out to cover up for a more embarrassing tidbit. Nancy was claiming to talk to ghosts in the White House, that they were giving her advice, and that she was passing that advice on to her husband. I never heard whether Ronnie knew that the advice he was getting was coming from ghosts, or whether he ever acted on it. But the party was terrified that the public would find out about Nancy’s conversations and would go bonkers. The last thing they needed in the era of Iran Contra was the possibility that ghosts were advising the President using his wife as a medium. I also remember rumors that, especially toward the end, Richard Nixon was meandering through the White House conferring with the resident ghosts. (There is also a story circulating about other members of the Reagan family seeing ghosts, which is recounted here.)

There have been a number of articles about the White House ghosts, one example can be found here. Many claim to have seen them, and more claim to have heard them. It is not unusual that a building as iconic as the White House would be rumored to have ghosts roaming around. Moreover, in a structure as old as the White House, with all the electronic signals flying around, the weather around D.C., and other factors, it would be unusual if strange sounds weren’t reported. I don’t necessarily believe or disbelieve in ghosts.

So many people have asked who all died in the White House who could be haunting it today. My question is, why would the person have to have died there to haunt there? Isn’t it as likely that a spirit would return to the place that represented the most significant events of his life? The scene, as it were, of his greatest triumphs or most difficult situations? Or, where he felt he had left unfinished business? I guess if there are ghosts, any former president or any number of his advisors or associates might choose to haunt there. Maybe Lyndon Johnson? (Please, please, please)

I can’t say that I have ever seen a ghost myself, at least not that I was aware of, and until I do, I will remain a skeptic. However, I do live in a time where quantum remote displacement is a thing, where we discuss resting mass vs. unstable mass, and where Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is accepted. These things already stretch my brain. Ghosts in the White House are less of a stretch than these things are. Besides, I do get tickled at the idea of perhaps a spectral Lyndon Baines Johnson visiting Trump in the middle of the night and yelling at him as only President Johnson could do.

The Antidote to Corporate Feudalism

In my last posting, I discussed the similarities between medieval feudalism in Europe and corporate feudalism that we are entering today.  I also promised to identify what finally brought an end to medieval feudalism, and thus, the antidote to corporate feudalism today.  I am not a historian, and I will not be going into a lot of historical analysis, dates or specifics.  Instead, I am going to approach this topic through the eyes of an economist.  I welcome real historians to contribute as they deem appropriate.

There is debate about the correct date of the end of the Roman Empire and start of the middle ages, however, most historians consider it to be either the sack of Rome on June 2, 455 CE, or September 4, 476 CE, on which date Odoacer deposed the last  Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus. However, Rome was also sacked on August 24, 410 CE, which was an important factor in the decline of the Roman empire.  With the fall of the empire, much of the cosmopolitan element of the society disappeared.  There was much less travel among communities, fewer people moved from one state to another, and society fell into isolated fiefdoms, with only the church as a somewhat uniting factor.  From that time until the crusades, feudalism, as described in the previous post, prevailed.

In 1095, Pope Urban issued the Crusades, whose purpose was to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. According to Lisa Blades and Christopher Paik in their paper, “The Impact of Holy Land Crusades on State Formation:  War Mobilization, Trade Integration and Political Development in Medieval Europe,” there were “four causal channels by which crusader mobilization strengthened nascent states. First, the departure of relatively large numbers of European elites for the Holy Land reduced the absolute number of elites who might serve as challengers to the king, increasing the stability of ruling monarchies. Second, crusade tithes were also among the first “per-head” taxes to be levied on European populations, creating precedent for later forms of centralized taxation and encouraging the development of representative institutions. Third, the large-scale sale of land by rural elites seeking to finance crusade expeditions undermined existing feudal institutional forms. Finally, the Crusades were a catalyst for the reintegration of Western Europe into global trade networks with implications for the rise of towns and urban governance structures. Using an original dataset of the geographic origins of elite crusaders, we find that areas with large numbers of Holy Land crusaders saw increased political stability, a higher probability of establishing parliamentary institutions, higher downstream levels of tax revenue and greater urbanization, even after controlling for a number of possible confounders.”  Others have pointed out that large numbers of lords and nobles left for the Holy Land, many died while they were there, others were bankrupted.  Their lands were escheated to the monarchs, thus increasing the power of the monarchy.  Still others had their properties seized while they were away.

While the first three channels are interesting, they don’t seem to me to be the biggest influence on the changes that occurred.  It is the last channel that I believe had the greatest impact.  Let me explain.

I first revisit the factors of production:

Land (including all natural resources),
Labor (including all human resources),
Capital (including all man-made resources), and
Enterprise (which brings all the previous resources together for production).

While the result of the first and third channels did cause ownership of the land, the first factor of production, it did not really change that ownership in a way that was felt by the peasants working the land.  It made no difference to that peasant whether the land was owned by a lord or a monarch, it was still not owned by him.  The second factor could not really be felt by a peasant either, taxes were what they were, regardless of who they went to.  Capital may have moved from lord to king, but the general population didn’t experience benefit or otherwise.  However, the reintegration of Western Europe into the global trade networks was significant.

When most people think of the Crusades, they think of phalanx of knights riding off on steeds with grim faces.  This picture is misleading.  Those phalanx of knights had to be fed, clothed, and otherwise provisioned.  It was an enormous mobilization of various trades required to keep the lords and their knights battle ready.  Peasants were not often part of this mobilization, but the craftsmen were.  There needed to be blacksmiths to tend to the horses, the swords, and so on.  There had to be people to work on the wagons, to mend the harnesses, to make or mend clothing, and even to build structures to house the armies.  There were vast amounts of food that had to be transported, and cooks to prepare that food.

Most of the craftsmen who traveled with the knights had never left their villages before.  On the journey, they met and worked with people from other villages, from other countries, who spoke other languages.  They were exposed to different ways to apply their crafts.   The new people they encountered were not only fellow Europeans, they also associated with locals in the different places they went.  This included Muslims.  They developed friendships. Most important, as I see it, they encountered the Muslim Guilds.  Originally begun in the 9th century as a way to control the quality and value of documents, the Muslim guilds had developed to control the quality and value of many other crafts. These guilds took various measures to protect their customers, and restrict access to techniques, materials, and markets.  Through these guilds, the craftsmen were able to command a reasonable, preset price for their services and know they would not be undercut by a competitor.  In other words, the guilds removed the control of the labor factor of production from the user (the lords, etc) to the provider (guild member).

The guilds did not return from the crusades fully developed.  Being introduced (or, more truthfully, reintroduced, since they had been in existence during the Roman Empire) to a society that did not have them, they had to mature, through starts and stops.  However, eventually, the mature guilds had some common characteristics in their charters: protection for the workers and protection for the consumers.  The following is taken from the Medieval Guilds page of Medieval Life and Times:

Guilds in the Medieval times – Protection of Workers / Guild Members
The Guilds in Medieval times protected the workers, or the guild members as follows:

  • Members of Medieval Guilds received protection from excessive taxes imposed by the lords and land owners
  • Competition between members was regulated by fixed pricing policies – advertising and price cutting was banned
  • Illicit trading by non Merchant Guild members was banned
  • All members of guilds were obligated to retain all trade secrets
  • The number of Guild masters and members of guilds were restricted to ensure there was sufficient business for each of the guilds
  • Sickness Protection
  • Protection for their members, goods and horses when traveling
  • Help with funeral expenses. Orphans of members of guilds were also cared for
  • Guilds funded the first non-religious schools of the Middle Ages
  • Working conditions and hours of work were regulated

Guilds in the Medieval times – Protection for Consumers
The Guilds of the Medieval times in Medieval Times also protected the consumers. The spin-offs from the regulations of the guilds led to:

  • Fair pricing policies – all prices were regulated by the guilds
  • Quality of goods or workmanship. Goods and services were inspected and members of guilds were expected to undertake long apprenticeships.

A review of the mature guild charters reveals a strong similarity to today’s Labor Unions, in fact, they are the same thing by a different name.  The first recorded registry of guilds is in 1170.  Note that guilds funded the first non religious schools of the Middle Ages.  This is important.  The guilds felt it was their responsibility to ensure the education of their members and their children (ok, boys back then, for the most part).  By establishing non religious schools, the guilds could teach students information that was outside that allowed by or pushed by the church.

Another factor of production was recovered for the guild members by the guilds.  That is the factor called Enterprise.  The guilds could, as a group, put together resources in a way that an individual could not.  They could also provide a forum for sharing ideas that could lead to innovation.  Innovation is a part of the factor called Enterprise.  The sharing of ideas stimulated the minds of the guild members, and offered an incentive to innovate.  We notice that the first castles built in the middle ages were essentially earth works, large earthen mounds.  We begin to see stone castles emerging in the Norman castles in the 12th century, coincident with the emergence of guilds.

The playing field was greatly leveled with two of the four factors of production in the hands of the laborers.

Now I turn to discuss corporate feudalism.  I begin by pointing out that the guilds, which broke medieval feudalism, were to all intents and purposes labor unions.  The only difference is in the name, and many of our labor unions today call themselves guilds (i.e. screen actor’s guild).  Labor unions are our antidote to corporate feudalism.  We can trace the strengthening of workers rights with the rise of the Labor Unions.  Unions got us child labor laws, paid vacation, company provided health care, the 40 hour work week, pensions, workplace safety and myriad other benefits.

We can also trace the weakening of workers rights over the past 35 years to the weakening of the labor unions.  The pensions that our unions had won for us at great cost, have been largely lost since then.  Health care and workplace safety are now at risk.  Corporations are pushing to regain the labor factor of production by controlling the availability of jobs and removing the ability of individuals to defend themselves.  Corporations are also pushing to regain the land factor.  Notice their buying up of farmland and creating corporate farms.  Notice their use of eminent domain to lay pipelines or create shopping centers and the like.  They are using the financial system to make home ownership more difficult.

It is important for us to stand together with unions to restore their place in our financial system.  An individual cannot stand up to the corporations alone.  It is only through unity that we can reestablish the rights of the workers.  In my next installment, I discuss the union movement in the U.S.